An Early June Paddle On Griggs Reservoir

A few days ago while fishing I was fortunate to see two Black-crowned Night Herons. Such a sighting is always a treat in Ohio as, unlike Great Blue Herons, they are only found in a few isolated locations with Griggs Reservoir being one. As you might expect most of their activity is a night so during the day they are usually found perched quietly in trees at waters edge.

 

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Fishing rig for the reservoir.

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Black-crowned Night Heron

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Given my good fortune the day before, my wife expressed the desire to do a paddle, bird camera in hand, with the express goal of seeing and perhaps photographing the herons. Of course as most birders know there is an element of uncertainty to these endeavors. After eight miles of paddling no Black-crowned Night Herons were seen much less photographed but as is often the case other things made up for it.

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As I moved the canoe closer a very young White Tail fawn at waters edge tries to remain unnoticed, (Donna).

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An also very young Map Turtle, about the size of a fifty cent piece, enjoys the morning sun, (Donna).

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We catch a rare glimpse of a female wood slinking along the shore with young ones. Usually by the time we get this close they’ve scattered. An outcome we try to avoid, (Donna).

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Typical evasive “wounded” maneuver by a female with young when you get too close, (Donna).

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In a second he was gone but that was all the time my wife needed to catch this Mink. Pretty exciting as it had been a while since we’d seen one, (Donna).

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A Red-eared Slider poses for a picture. It may now be more common in the reservoir than the Map Turtle, (Donna).

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Usually several groups of mallard duckling are seen during early June paddles, (Donna).

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Like all youngsters this immature Red-tailed Hawk was making a lot of noise, demanding to be noticed.

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Given the number of nesting boxes Prothonotary Warblers are certainly not rare in central Ohio. However, whenever we find one “setting up housekeeping” in a natural tree cavity it’s particularly exciting. Such was the case with the below female at the north end of Griggs.

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Prothonotary Warbler, (Donna).

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Another view, (Donna).

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We were almost to the 161 bridge and Kiwanis Riverway Park when we saw the prothonotary and usually go just a little further before turning for the journey home. However, on this particular day it was hard to imagine what would be discovered that would top that already seen so with a fair breeze off our stern we somewhat reluctantly pointed the bow south and headed home. A wonderful way to finish the day.

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Thanks for stopping by

 

 

Kinglet Quest

In central Ohio early April usually brings the seasons first migrating birds but before they really start moving through the area we like to spend time enjoying spring wildflowers. Unlike many of the birds, their world is located on the forest floor and exists before the overhead canopy all to quickly leafs out and cuts off their sunlight. It is a magical time as splashes of color find expression amid the dullness of last years leaf litter.

A Bloodroot flower waits to open, Duranceaux Park.

As pretty as any wildflower Virginia Waterleaf emerges from the leaf litter, Griggs Reservoir Park.

In what almost seems to be an act of defiance, a solitary Bloodroot blooms surrounded by the slowly decaying leaves, Duranceaux Park.

Cold weather has allowed this Snow Trillium to stay around longer than one usually expects, Duranceaux Park.

Just emerging blooms of Dutchmen’s Breeches, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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A few days of warm weather, after a week or two of colder than normal spring temperatures, and things really started to open up.

Spring Beauty, Greenlawn Cemetery.

False Rue Anemone, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Bloodroot in full bloom, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

The very tiny flowers of Common Speedwell, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Cutleaf Toothwart, Highbanks Metro Park, (Donna).

Rue Anemone, Highbanks Metro Park, (Donna).

Toadshade Trillium, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Yellow Trout Lilies “march” across the forest floor, High Banks Metro Park, (Donna).

A closer look, (Donna).

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Often, as we looked for wildflowers, there was activity overhead. A quick glance up indicated that many of the birds were kinglets and they seemed to be everywhere. Armed with that awareness, we dusted off the “bird cameras” and for the next few days made kinglets our primary objective. Often when one decides to look for a specific bird efforts are frustrated, but in this case the kinglets cooperated. “Cooperated” should be qualified by saying that they only do as much as such a hyper active bird can. As many birders know all to well, they’re a challenge to follow with binoculars much less a telephoto equipped camera.

Golden-crowned Kinglet, Duranceaux Park.

Take 2, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Take 3, Duranceaux Park.

 

Take 4, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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Not seen as often, we had less luck with the Ruby-crowned Kinglets. For the most part they stayed in the low thickets and brush and moved constantly, with fleeting views often partially obscured by small branches.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Showing off it’s ruby crown.

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Where there are kinglets there are often .   .   .

Carolina Chickadee, common but not always easy to photograph, Duranceaux Park.

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While the activity continued below, high overhead a Red-tailed Hawk surveyed it’s realm.

Red-tailed Hawk, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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On one outing a group of Black Vultures was seen perched in a Sycamore along the shore of the reservoir. Not a real common sight in central Ohio. Closer examination of the nearby area revealed the partially devoured carcass of a deer.

Black Vultures, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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We don’t want to forget some of the other birds seen as we looked for kinglets.

No bird’s song speaks to us in the spring like that of the the Song Sparrow, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Yellow-rumped Warblers are often taken for granted as they are one of the most numerous of their kind but the beauty of this male is undeniable, Greenlawn Cemetery,

Momentarily fooling us into thinking it was a Goldfinch, this Pine Warbler was seen at Greenlawn Cemetery.

Later in the year as low lying bushes leaf out the Eastern Towhee, a large colorful sparrow, will be much harder to see, Greenlawn Cemetery.

White-breasted Nuthatch, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Bluebirds never fail to put a smile on our face, Griggs Reservoir Park.

With fast departing remnants of a spring snow an American Goldfinch warms itself in the morning sun, Griggs Reservoir Park. surrounded by

Always a thrill to see, we were entertained by this acrobatic Black and White Warbler, Greenlawn Cemetery, (Donna).

If I were a first time visitor to Ohio from Europe, I would be enchanted by this American Cardinal, Griggs Reservoir Park.

On a cold spring morning we wonder what this Eastern Phoebe finds to eat, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

A very healthy looking male House Finch, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

This Wood Duck pair  landed in “the pit” at Greenlawn Cemetery but left just as quickly when they realized they were being watched by a rather large group of birders, (Donna).

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As the ephemeral days of spring pass there will be other wildflowers and winged migrants to enchant, but for a brief moment in time, while on their yearly journey north, kinglets became the seasons exclamation point.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Cliff Swallow Close Up

We often see Cliff Swallows when paddling central Ohio’s reservoirs. While seeing them is not rare, getting a good picture of one is. During a recent outing on Griggs Reservoir we had the opportunity to use the canoe to our advantage. We positioned ourselves so that, sitting motionless, a light breeze propelled the canoe toward swallow nests located on the bridge support structure. By being very still we were able to get much closer than we had previously. Once the paddles were picked up to reposition the boat, the birds flew.

Typical Cliff Swallow nest location, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic ZS50.

Cliff Swallows, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

A closer look, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

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North end of Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic FZ200.

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During our trip, which covered the length of the reservoir, there were plenty of things to see. This was a good thing because I was testing a new Sigma 18-300mm lens. The hope is that the lens, mounted on my DSLR, will do most of what my Panasonic FZ200 does, landscapes, close-ups of insects, and to some extent birds, but with more creative control and exposure latitude while still having the convenance of not having to switch lenses. In harsh light DSLR APS-C sensors tend to do better with highlights and shadows (exposure latitude) when compared to the much smaller sensor used in the FZ200. The Sigma lens is a story of compromises given that it goes from extreme wide angle to telephoto. It’s not a macro lens but will take reasonable pictures of “bugs” while at the same time doing a decent job with landscapes and birds that aren’t to far away. Overall I’m satisfied with it’s performance realizing it will never compete with fixed focal length lenses for ultimate sharpness. For those not familiar with sensor sizes see the chart below. I’ve also included the type of camera used for each picture should the reader be curious.

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It’s the insect time of the year along the reservoir ensuring that there are plenty of fascinating subjects.

Fragile Forktail, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, (cropped).

Eastern Forktail (F), Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, (cropped).

Familiar Bluet, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, (cropped).

Widow Skimmer (F) not fully developed, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, (Donna).

Eastern Pondhawk (M), Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Familiar Bluet, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Bee on Milkweed flower, Griggs Park, Panasonic Zs50.

Eastern Amberwing, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Happy Milkweed Beetles, Griggs Reservoir Park, Panasonic ZS50.

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Reptiles and amphibian greeted us during our journey.

Bullfrog, Griggs Reservoir, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, (cropped).

Hiding, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Very small Map Turtle, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Looking at the other side, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

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Other things also watched our passing.

White-tailed deer along the shore of Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

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At the very north end of the reservoir, Kiwanis Riverway Park, we pulled the boat out for a snack break and spent some time checking out the area birds. Hopefully a few more challenging subjects for the Sigma lens would be found.

Great Egret and Cormorant north end of Griggs Reservoir, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, (cropped).

A closer look at the Great Egret, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Tree Swallows, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, cropped.

A male Red-winged Blackbird calls out, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

Northern Flicker, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, cropped, (Donna).

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The below picture is interesting because this Wood Duck duckling, along with three of it’s siblings, was reacting to the presence of our canoe. We never chase birds but these guys shot out of the shoreline brush and took off across the water. Sadly, as we watched them head for another hiding spot, one duckling suddenly disappeared not to be seen again. The victim of a Large Mouth Bass or Snapping Turtle perhaps?

Wood Duck duckling, Griggs reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, (Donna).

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Recent wildflowers seen.

Water Willow, Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D with Sigma 18-300mm lens, cropped.

Butterfly Weed continues to make it’s presence known in Griggs Reservoir Park.

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Along the water’s edge the flowers of the Button Bush have just started to bloom, Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic ZS 50.

Looking into the woods, a Day Lily stands out, Griggs Reservoir Park, Panasonic ZS50.

Spiderwort, Griggs Reservoir Park, Panasonic ZS50.

Moth Mullein, Griggs Reservoir Park, Panasonic ZS50.

Catnip (non-native), Panasonic ZS50.

Wild Rose along Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, (Donna).

Trumpet-creeper along Griggs Reservoir, Panasonic G7 Leica 100-400mm lens, (Donna).

Coneflower, backyard.

Black-eyed Susan, Griggs Reservoir Park, Panasonic ZS50.

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Often we find ourselves enchanted by a new view of something seen before. Such was the case with our close up encounter with the Cliff Swallows. Their nest building and graceful flight, what amazing birds! On the same day the celebration may be interrupted by an occurrence, like the sudden disappearance of a duckling, that is hard to watch.

Paddling into Kiwanis Riverway Park, Panasonic FZ200.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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XXX

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Should you wish prints from various posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo. If you don’t find it on the link drop us a line.

 

The Magic World Of The Very Small

The last few days found us paddling Griggs Reservoir. This time of year we always hope that staying close to the shoreline will result in warbler sightings and perhaps a few pictures. With warblers and other migrants moving through it’s a good time of year. In recent days on the reservoir we’ve even seen Mink along the banks and while walking just south of the dam my wife caught the tail end of a Bald Eagle as it flew overhead.

 

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Bald Eagle over the Scioto River just below Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)

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A number of immature Black-crowned Night Herons have also been seen, encouraging because of our recent discovery of one that had met it’s demise at the business end of a abandoned fishing line.

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Immature Black-crowned Night Heron, Griggs Reservoir.

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Other things were also seen as we made our way along the shore.

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A Great Blue Heron takes flight, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)

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Two Wood Ducks seemingly amused by a Painted Turtle or is it the other way around, Griggs reservoir.

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A Red-tailed Hawk looks on as we head north along the west shore of the reservoir.

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Painted Turtles enjoy posing for the camera much more than some of the other species we encounter, (Donna)

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A female Kingfisher actually poses for the camera, Griggs Reservoir.

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Walking Griggs Park has been more productive for seeing as well as photographing warblers and other small birds mostly because of the difficulty in controlling and positioning the canoe in the pursuit of small active birds.

 

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A male Bluebird doing what bluebirds do best, Griggs Park.

 

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A male Cardinal, beautiful in the morning sun, Griggs Park.

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Eastern Phoebe, Griggs Park.

 

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Black-throated Green Warbler, Griggs Park.

 

 

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Another view, (Donna)

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Carolina Wren sings it’s heart out.

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Chipping Sparrow, Griggs Park.

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If the warblers aren’t cooperating there may be a butterfly, not always rare, but one we’ve not noticed before.

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Checkered Skipper, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Fishing is also getting better as the weather cools with time taken off between casts to do a little house keeping along the shore. What can I say, it’s always there, but as those who read this blog already know, it makes me feel better to pick it up.

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Another nice Smallmouth Bass, Griggs Reservoir

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Unlike fish that are always returned to the water, the trash covering the bottom of the canoe is not “Catch and Release”!

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But recently real magic was discovered within the world of the very small when we spotted countless damselflies mating on fallen autumn leaves floating on the reservoir’s calm surface as we paddled back to our launch site during the warmth of the day. We’d never seen anything like that before.

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In the warming late morning sun Dusky Dancer were on every leaf, (Donna)

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The bigger the leaf the more damselflies. Sometimes, as we got close, they would swarm over the  canoe.

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That’s about it for this post. For us living in northern regions autumn is a great time to be out in nature. A feeling borne from the knowledge that this fleeting time will not last. Thanks for stopping by.

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Dew Drop

xxx

Should you wish, various prints from this and other posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo. and Donna’s 2017 Birds of Griggs Park calendar is available at Calendar.

 

Birding By Canoe, Alum Creek Reservoir

There may be a few birds that are easier to see from a canoe but for us the real reason for using one is that we enjoy messing around in small boats and it does offer a unique perspective on the landscape. The north end of Alum Creek reservoir in central Ohio is a beautiful place to explore. With an endless number of coves you never know what you’ll discover so there’s always anticipation. On the down side, while using binoculars to observe birds is usually not too difficult, taking acceptable pictures is another story as holding the camera steady while you and everything else is moving is almost impossible. The stronger the breeze the greater the challenge so often when we’re in the canoe my wife becomes the photographer and I handle the boat.

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The following celebrates a recent adventure on the reservoir:

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Exploring a cove.

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We often direct our gaze upward as we follow the shoreline.

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Looking for birds.

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Along the shore a Red-tailed hawk seemed to be tending a nest but no immature birds were seen.

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There was no shortage of Baltimore Orioles.

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Northern Rough-winged Swallow, (Donna)

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Double-crested Cormorants, (Donna).

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While enjoying the birds, out of the corner of our eye we noticed a flowering plant unlike anything we recalled seeing before. So often when we discover a “new to us” plant it turns out to be invasive but that was not the case with this one.

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Close-up photography of a flower is not easy when you are in a canoe.

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Limber Honeysuckle, native to Ohio, very exotic looking.

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Another view, (Donna).

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Looking up isn’t always necessary, down lower a few birds and turtles also cooperated for the camera.

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A Pileated Woodpecker liked something about this log.

 

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How many ducklings can a mother Wood Duck care for?

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A moment later they heading up into the grass, (Donna)

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Small Map Turtle, (Donna)

 

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Spotted Sandpiper along the shore.

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Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle, (Donna).

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There was no shortage of Prothonotary Warblers, (Donna).

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Singing, (Donna).

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These birds are flexible!, (Donna).

 

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Other plants also fascinated.

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Pussytoes, (Donna).

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Shoreline grass, (Donna)

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Corn Salad, (Donna).

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In addition to the birds and fascinating plants my wife spotted this small butterfly.

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Pearl Crescent, (Donna).

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Pearl Crescent from below, (Donna).

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Did I say Alum Creek Reservoir is a beautiful place? It is, but the dark side is that there’s a lot of thrash.

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Just part of the trash we collected during our paddle. The bow and stern areas of the canoe were full.

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But ending on a more upbeat note:

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Cove, Alum Creek Reservoir.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

A Special Bird a Special Day

Today, the anniversary of my birth, we headed to Griggs Reservoir near our home in the hopes of seeing the Red-throated Loon that had been reported at the reservoir’s south end. It’s a bird that’s not normally seen in central Ohio so it would be a especially nice way to mark the passing of another year. After all, what else do you get someone who has pretty much everything they need or want. Also, if seen, it would be a life bird for me as well as my wife and that is always exciting.

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Long story short, we did see the loon, and I received my very special birthday present. However, even more amazing was that just as we arrived and were exiting the car, equipment still in slight disarray, +30 Sandhill Cranes and then a Bald Eagle flew right over our heads. We were so excited about the cranes that when the eagle flew over we were completely taken aback and just watched it fly away cameras in hand, so no flying eagle pictures.

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Probably about half the total number of cranes in the group.

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A slightly closer look.

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Before spotting  the loon, we walked south, first along the reservoir and then the river. A Cooper’s Hawk flew overhead with what appeared to be a starling in it’s talons, accompanied by a group of the unfortunate victims closest friends. Then, heading across the reservoir, still with it’s prey, it was briefly harassed by a gull before safely reaching the other shore.
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Further south along the river we did manage to see some of our other friends.
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A male Kingfisher watches from across the river.

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A female was much closer on our side of the river. This picture, probably of the same bird, was taken a few days ago, (Donna).

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One of two male Wood Ducks seen.

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Finally, heading back to the car along the reservoir’s east shore, there it was   .   .   .
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At first it seemed that we were only going to see a loon sleeping.

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But then it woke up .  .  .

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and treated us to a better view.

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For comparison purposes, below are a couple of shots my wife took with her FZ200 superzoom.

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Red-throated Loon, (Donna).

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Take 2, (Donna).

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A hard to beat birthday present.
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Thanks for stopping by.

Sometimes It Takes A Knock On The Head

In central Ohio it’s the time of the year when finding subjects that inspire a photograph can be a bit of a challenge. Contemplating a paddle in November, given a suitable day, usually means we’re thinking more about getting exercise than about the birds or other wildlife we might see. But if we happen upon something interesting, such as migrating waterfowl, so much the better. Such was the case a few days ago on Griggs Reservoir.

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The sun low in the south, water dark, reflections of naked branches.

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One of our favorite coves looks quite different now.

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As we paddled, it wasn’t long before we did spot waterfowl.

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Still pretty far away, as I continue to paddle my wife catches a pair of Wood Ducks.

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As we get closer they don’t hang around, (Donna).

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In a second they were gone, (Donna).

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A solitary Pie-billed Grebe also makes an appearance

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Pie-billed Grebe, not as timid as the Wood Ducks

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Not to be completely upstaged by the “ducks”, two hawks watch as we glide by.

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Red-tailed Hawk, (Donna)

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Coopers Hawk, (Donna)

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xxx

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A few days after our paddle, we wanted to get out of the house and enjoy a little nature before a prediction for cold and rainy weather went into effect. Since we weren’t sure when the rain would arrive we decided to travel the short distance to Griggs Park which borders the reservoir and the Scioto River. It was a cloudy/partly sunny day starting out, but the wind, warning of weather soon to change, was strong. Given the conditions, expectations weren’t high.

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Along the top of the Griggs Reservoir Dam gulls enjoy a warm but windy November day.

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Perhaps a little too windy.

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The good news; even on a windy day there’s something to see.

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Mushroom community, (Donna)

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Oyster Mushrooms, (Donna)

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White-breasted Nuthatch, (Donna)

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Recent rains brought out finger-like fungi, (Donna)

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Shelf fungi, (Donna)

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Eastern Wahoo, perhaps the most colorful thing around.

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But we had a slightly different priority for this particular day’s walk. During a recent trip we had noticed that along the river below the dam a secluded area in the woods had been commandeered for drinking and perhaps other things. A “hideout” had been fashioned out of available limbs and branches. Based on the accumulation of beer cans, other trash, and the existence of old wood furniture, it appeared that the area was being used on a regular basis. Since the surrounding area, while not a formal park space, is used by numerous people, along with their kids, for walking, exploring, birding, fishing, etc., the hideout had the potential to grow into a real problem. So, with the necessary tools and determination, the area was dismantled and the trash removed. Being a natural area in the middle of the city there is no illusion of permanency but at least for a while the “hideout” is gone.

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Reflections along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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But the task was not accomplished before an overhanging branch came into contact with the top of my head. Ouch!!! So the real point to this story is not the remediation of the area but the fact that I’m a bit superstitious. You see, normally when I do a good deed, picking up a discarded soda can here or a fast food wrapper there, I imagine good luck will follow. Perhaps we’ll see an unusual bird or something. With that in mind, after my painful encounter with the branch, and with my head still throbbing, I was hoping for something really spectacular.

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Amazingly enough as we continued south along the river, it wasn’t long before we heard two birds carrying on quite a conversation  .   .   .

a pair of Bald Eagles!

.   .   .   and they appeared to be working on a nest!

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Okay, who’s going to get the next stick?

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I got the last one!

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Are you sure? Seems like I’m doing most of the work!

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So as I finish this post, I’m still excited about the eagles and my head has actually stopped throbbing. It remains to be seen if their efforts at nesting will be successful. While the area around the nest tree isn’t easily accessible, it also isn’t the quietist, and is certainly not remote. But what a treat, and as we often like to say when something of wonder is seen near home, “right within the city limits of Columbus”!

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Taking a break during one of our paddles on Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)

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